Justice Minister says Verona Murphy wasn't used to 'rough and tumble' of election campaign
JUSTICE Minister Charlie Flanagan has said embattled Fine Gael candidate Verona Murphy was not accustomed to the “rough and tumble” of an election campaign.
Mr Flanagan mounted a robust defence of Ms Murphy, who looks set to miss out on a Dáil seat in the Wexford by-election, while insisting she was not subject to the character assassination that her supporters had claimed in recent days following a contentious campaign.
The minister also suggested that another by-election candidate, journalist Gemma O’Doherty, who ran in Dublin Fingal, "seemed to get something of a free pass, perhaps maybe from former colleagues in the media”.
Speaking at the count centre in Wexford, Mr Flanagan said: “This was a turbulent campaign. The Fine Gael campaign in particular experienced some difficulties. Verona Murphy apologised for unacceptable comments on her part during the course of the campaign."
Ms Murphy drew criticism after she repeatedly linked migrants in Ireland with the terror group Isil - comments she later apologised for.
Mr Flanagan continued: “I accepted that apology as director of elections. I don't believe it would be reasonable or fair to define any candidate on one single issue. Verona Murphy is is is a successful businesswoman who has a positive contribution to make to Irish political life.
“Elections are difficult. It was Verona Murphy's first election campaign. She may not, she wasn't accustomed to what is the rough and tumble of an election campaign I've done eight heading into my ninth. Elections are not for the faint hearted. I don't believe she was [subject to a character assassination].
He added: “What I will say is that she was the focus of much national criticism, she apologised. There were candidates and one in particular, Gemma O'Doherty, who didn't apologise and who seemed to get something of a free pass, perhaps maybe from former colleagues in the media.”
Mr Flanagan said Fine Gael would continue to support Ms Murphy as a candidate for the next general election where she has been selected to run in Wexford.